John Freshwater Case Is Winding Down

As you recall, this started out a couple of years ago as an administrative hearing to determine whether John Freshwater will be fired as an 8th-grade science teacher in Ohio. He’s accused of burning a cross on a student with a Tesla coil, teaching religion in his science class, and failing to follow the school district’s orders. Freshwater says the district wants to fire him only because he refused to remove a Bible from his desk.

Our last update on this long-lasting controversy was John Freshwater Update (30 Apr ‘10).

The administrative hearing hasn’t yet concluded, but some federal litigation which had been started by the same parties is now ending, and the results appear favorable to the student and embarrassing to the creationist teacher.

The most recent news story we could find is from the Columbus Dispatch. Their headline is Suit against science teacher settled for $450,000. The student will be getting the money from the school district’s insurance company.

We haven’t been writing much about this case because the best coverage has been provided by Richard B. Hoppe at Panda’s Thumb. He’s actually been attending hearings, and his reporting about this story is far better than anyone else could be doing. Richard’s latest article is Freshwater: Settlement in Doe v. Mt. Vernon BOE (UPDATED w/statement from family).

The National Center for Science Education has been following this case, but their most recent story, Settlement in Freshwater case imminent, also links to Richard’s work at Panda’s Thumb.

The administrative hearing is expected to end soon. It will probably result in Freshwater’s permanent discharge as a teacher. When that happens, perhaps Freshwater himself will turn to Richard’s writing. It may be the only way he’ll ever figure out what happened.

This is looking like it’ll be a story with a happy ending.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “John Freshwater Case Is Winding Down

  1. comradebillyboy

    A bit of good news. I am glad that our court system appears to be less dysfunctional than the administrative and legislative branches now days.

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    The real scandal is that it takes longer to fire a teacher, even one who has done something egregiously wrong, than it takes to resolve a Federal lawsuit.

    If you are unfortunate enough to have to fire a teacher in New York City, here is the process:

    http://commongood.org/burdenquestion-6.html

    Of course this varies from state to state; but even in states like Florida where teachers don’t get tenure it can take months to fire a teacher.

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    The reason I bring that up: In case you missed it, Freshwater is still employed by his school district and will be for some time to come.

  4. Employed but on unpaid administrative leave. The district is still paying for his health insurance, but no salary or other benefits (e.g., no retirement accrual).

  5. okay, my class is having a debate on this stuff and jost so you know, we learned that this zachary kid is totally making the burn marks overdramtic, according to what OTHER children said in his class zachary didnt complain about the marks until AFTER the case started. and he had a choice to recieve the marks as well. also, other students at the school that have undergone the same testla coil experiment described it as only tickling, if anything. the only problem here is that he had a bible on his desk and something on the ten commandments on his wall. that is the ONLY real thing he has done. he also didnt teach a certain religion (from the souces that i know of) but he tought CREATIONALIZM. it is important that students not only understand the basics of the theory of evolution but the contrastion POV that is creationalizm so that as opposed to just soaking in what seems to be true or what they are told to be true they can, instead, step back from a distance and view the big picture!

  6. Goodbye, waza 121212.

  7. Gabriel Hanna

    waza 121212 is one of the students on whom the United States spent $91,000 educating-more than almost any other country that regularly kicks our asses academically. He can’t spell, he can’t write a sentence or a paragraph.

    http://mercatus.org/publication/k-12-spending-student-oecd

    Of course the solution is always to spend MORE money. We spend an average of $150K to educate a kid through high school; adjusted for inflation in 1970 it was $50 K. Did we get three times the results?

  8. Gabe, I’m a product of the Texas public school system. I then went on to an Ivy League school to study science.

    I’m also a certified teacher in the state of Texas (a right to work state– so no unions). My first year teaching (1997), I earned $24,000. I was in the second highest paying district in Dallas. The higest paying district was Highland Park. They paid $24,500.

    BTW, as a public education insider, I feel pretty confident in stating that the problem isn’t always the teachers, often it is the parents. When parents start valuing education again, we teachers won’t be so restricted on how much we can do. I can’t force children to learn. I can’t make them work hard. Their parents have to do that. Even so, teacher turnover is high because there are plenty of us who think our time is worth more than the paltry pay we get for the exhausting amount of work heaped on us. So we leave and pursue better careers.

    In other words, quit yer b*tchin’. If teachers actually got PAID what we are worth, we might have better quality teachers. If parents actually cared about their kids’ performance, we might have better student performance. And if politicians actually understood educational best practice, we wouldn’t be strangled by “teaching to the test”.

    You want a better system, address one of those problems.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    You want a better system, address one of those problems.

    The protection, at all costs, of incompetence teachers by powerful unions is conspicuously absent from your list. I would be happy to see teacher’s paid more–though in Washington state teachers are paid much more than the $24,000 you got–provided that it were possible to fire the bad teachers. Look at the Freshwater case. Look how long it has taken to fire that man. He is not an unusual exception.

    I don’t know how powerful the teacher’s unions are in Texas, but I’ve linked to the “rubber rooms” more than once and it’s not like you haven’t heard of them by now.

    http://reason.com/archives/2006/10/01/how-to-fire-an-incompetent-tea

    Teachers are not saints and angels. Good ones need to be rewarded and bad ones fired. The current system makes this impossible, and teachers, through their unions, always demand more money and resist any sort of accountability. For the children.

    You don’t have to worry about ME, as a parent, taking no initiative in my child’s education. What I’ve seen from incoming high school freshmen in my teaching experience, has convinced me that I cannot trust the public K-12 system to educate them. Even in Washington State where teachers are paid much more than you were in Texas.

  10. LRA says:

    You want a better system, address one of those problems.

    Aside from unions and the inability to fire inadequate teachers, there’s also the Byzantine process of teacher accreditation. In every town there are probably loads of people, many of them retired and who might work for a little extra income, who could do a fine job teaching science, history, and math (maybe not “social studies,” which is an invention of schools of education). But they’re not “qualified” according to whatever requirements the states impose. Loads of potentially excellent teachers are frozen out of the system.

  11. Gabriel Hanna

    Here’s a list of median teacher salaries in the US, not counting benefits:

    http://www.payscale.com/research/US/All_K-12_Teachers/Salary

    The average looks to be around $42,000, which is not a king’s ransom but it’s not poverty either–for example, it’s about what most physics postdocs make (who of course have Ph.Ds in physics). Since these are median incomes, 50% of teachers are making MORE than $42,000, and of course the rest are making less. Of course its over the whole country and it may be that it’s better to be a teacher somewhere besides Texas.

    The incomes of physics postdocs, for comparison, can be found here:

    http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/salary/salary04.htm

  12. Curmie– In the state of Texas, you can be accredited as a teacher by taking a subject matter test and by taking some Saturday classes through the district you work for. It’s called alternative certification. Plenty of people do it.

    Gabe– I don’t know about other states. I only know about Texas, where teaching is ridiculously underpaid because we have NO unions to help us.
    On the other hand, teachers here go year to year with their contracts so if you are a bad teacher, you are out the next year. Even so, Texas can’t keep good teachers because we leave to go elsewhere where our intelligence and hard work is rewarded. So, if Texas schools would pay their teachers more (and keep the year to year contract situation), then I would think that they’d be able to attract and keep good teachers and non-renew bad teachers. Here is an example of where spending more money (specifically on teacher pay) might actually help.

  13. Gabriel Hanna

    I don’t live in Texas, LRA, I’ll take your word for it; but the problem nationwide is the opposite of what you have in Texas.

    Actually, you know, you do have teacher’s unions in Texas:

    http://www.tsta.org/inside/locals/index.shtml

  14. TSTA (of which I am a member!) is not a union. It’s an association. Texas is a right to work state. So, in essence, we don’t have unions here. Unions do not have power here.

  15. Gabriel Hanna

    @LRA: They certainly DESCRIBE themselves as a union on their web page, and they are affiliated with NEA.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=texas+state+teachers+association&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1;&rlz=1I7GGLL_en

    Union representing teachers who are affiliated with the National Education Association.

    Texas is a right-to-work state, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have unions and that they are powerless. It’s still a union even if it doesn’t have as much power as you wish it had.

  16. Gabriel Hanna

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-to-work_law

    Right-to-work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states, mostly in the southern or western U.S., allowed under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers making membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.

    So, your union can’t force people to be members and spend their money on politics they don’t necessarily support. Doesn’t mean you don’t belong to a union.

  17. Gabe, unions have no more power here than any other type of organization (like, the Girl Scouts, for example). In fact, corporations have more power here than unions. That’s why there are so many corporate headquarters here. Whatever TSTA says, it is not a union like what you’d see in a Sissy Spacek movie. I was not required to join TSTA and we don’t have strikes here. They may try to lobby the legislative branch here, but the TEA is the one with the actual power.

  18. Call it what you will, the word “union” has a specific meaning traditionally associated with it. We don’t have that. Our “unions” have been neutered.

  19. Bah… not Sissy Spacek, Sally Field. I was thinking of “Norma Rae.”

  20. Gabriel Hanna

    They may try to lobby the legislative branch here, but the TEA is the one with the actual power.

    Well, you’ve nothing to worry about, have you? You’re working for the government, not some evil corporation. 🙂

  21. Gabriel Hanna

    Our “unions” have been neutered.

    Yes they have, by the democratically enacted laws of your state. The unions are not allowed to force people to join against their will like UAW tried to do to me when I was grad student. Tell all your friends and neighbors they need powerful teachers’ unions like in other states, where teachers can’t be fired without keeping on them full pay for years. I’m sure they’ll jump to change that law.

    Anyway, doesn’t change the fact–you’re in a union, and it represents you, and it’s the SAME union (NEA) that demands the screwed-up laws that kept anyone from firing Freshwater and created the “rubber rooms” in New York.

  22. Have to agree with Gabriel in this, in the West, unions once served a useful purpose, but now they do more harm than good.

  23. Ok, what part of TEXAS UNIONS HAVE NO POWER do y’all not understand???

    Further, I’m a student and a private tutor at the moment, and so I neither work for corporations nor for the government, but given the choice, I’ll be a public servant over a selfish greedy a-hole anytime.

    My work at least HELPS people. But whatever, if you think it is noble to crash Wall Street and steal people’s retirements, then go for it.

    My mom worked for Exxon for 27 years. They stressed her out so much that she was hospitalized for ulcerative colitis and had heart surgery at 51 years old (and she is a non-smoker that only weighs 135 lbs, so its not a lifestyle choice other than work). People regularly die in this country of stress-related disorders. Ya know, but corporations are havens of justice, opportunity, and fairness, right???

  24. Perhaps I was not accurate enough in my previous depiction of corporations… American law doesn’t require or establish ethical behavior for many aspects of American life. So screwing people over and f*cking with them after they’ve given you YEARS of service isn’t illegal. ISN’T AMERICAN CAPITALISM GRAND??????? Workers are expected to give near PERFECT loyalty to the companies they work for, but the companies aren’t required to give ANY kind of loyalty to honest, hard working, good people.

    Yeah. That’s fair. Not.